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Second fatal crash in Dayton Air Show history

Fatal air show crash first in U.S. this year.

Saturday’s fatal crash at the Vectren Dayton Air Show is the second in the show’s 40-year history.

The crash Saturday was the first in the U.S. in 2013, a year when many air shows were cancelled because of the federal budget cuts. But it followed a deadly year for crashes in 2011 and 2012.

The previous fatal crash at the Dayton air show occurred in 2007. Aerobatic pilot Jim LeRoy died in a crash in which he was later found to be at fault. LeRoy failed to maintain clearance from the ground during an acrobatics routine and crashed his 400-horsepower, single-seat biplane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The safety board found that “smoke oil” present in the air where the performers were flying also contributed to the crash.

LeRoy’s yellow Bulldog Pitts continued from a spiral spin into the ground, slid 300 feet and burst into flames shortly after 2:30 p.m. LeRoy was part of a two-plane aerobatics team known as Codename: Mary’s Lamb.

“He pulled up too late and the plane pancaked into the ground. It looked like the fellow just tried to pull out too late,” John Dickerson, an amateur pilot from Lebanon, said in 2007.

LeRoy, 46, of Lake City, Fla., was killed immediately by the 200-mph crash impact.

Stephanie Owens of Kettering watched from the Dayton Daily News observation area as trucks arrived and put out the flames with foam, then pulled out and evacuated LeRoy by Black Hawk helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital.

“Time stood still,” Owens said after the crash.

The announcer identified himself as a former pastor and led the crowd in a prayer. Parents were asked to have their children turn away.

Dr. Jim Brown, resident director of the Wright State University School of Medicine at the time, accompanied two army medics on the Black Hawk. LeRoy was pronounced dead before the helicopter touched down on top of the hospital.

LeRoy’s death was announced at a 4 p.m. press conference and the final performance of the day, by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, was canceled. The crowd was sent home.

At the time, Clair Potter, a former Dayton Air Show official, and Timothy R. Gaffney, former aviation reporter for the Dayton Daily News, both said they could not recall any prior fatal plane crash in the history of the show, which began in 1975 as the Dayton Air Fair.

Gaffney also said he could not recall any crashes during past shows that could have rendered a plane unflyable.

In LeRoy’s crash, contributing factors listed by the NTSB included the “pilot’s restricted ability to see the terrain” and “smoke oil” – commonly distributed by aerobatic performers as a special effect - present in the air where the performers were flying.

Like this year’s crash, the 2007 accident occurred on a Saturday, cancelling the remainder of the events that day. But the show returned on Sunday to big crowds, with the Thunderbirds again closing out the show.

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